A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Monday, January 31, 2011

So Far, So Good; or, Second Betas

So first of all, the most important news: second betas are in at 686 at 18 dpIUI. That's a tripling time of 72 hours. Not bad!

It was a rocky day getting to that point. I woke up around 3 am this morning to pee, tossed and turned for an hour after returning to bed, woke up again at 7 (to pee again), and had to get ready and get Bella to her doggy daycare so I could get to the RE's and spend the day in the city. After the blood draw, I went down to the library and tried to study--and I did manage to work for an hour or so. But I couldn't resist the lure of Dr. Google and he led me straight into the center of a panic attack. The tech who had drawn my blood had said I'd get the beta call between 2 and 6 pm. The closer we got to two o'clock, the tighter the knot in my stomach grew and the less I could breathe. I felt my heart racing when I pressed my hand to my chest and I could barely keep from crying. I was just so sure the PA would give me terrible news when she made the call, and I was losing my mind a bit from worry.

The office still hadn't called by the time I had to get to my therapy appointment (around the corner from my school) at 3:30, so I silenced my phone and went to the session. As soon as I told my therapist I was pregnant, I burst into tears. I then cried pretty constantly throughout the session. I told her all my fears: how this is going to end just like my first pregnancy did; how I'm obsessively imagining every potential future negative moment in this pregnancy and every past one with the m&m; how I can't imagine what the cells inside me are like because every time I try to picture them (as I did with the m&m) I think, "It's probably dead already, so what's the point."

(PS: I just read that last paragraph and realized that, the few times I've talked about this so far, I keep saying "I was pregnant" not "I am pregnant." Like, "On Friday, I found out I was pregnant." Gotta love amateur psychology).

Anyway, my therapist was great, as always. I am so glad I switched to her almost a year ago. I feel like our sessions together have made a profound difference in the way I cope with stress, not that you can tell from the way I've been acting lately. She said it was completely understandable why I would feel this way, but that I am making things emotionally worse for myself with my need to control the situation. I tend to need control to feel confident and not anxious, so in my anxiety about the uncertainty of this pregnancy, I'm seizing onto all my memories of the last one in order to convince myself that I know what's going to happen. And in the process, I'm mentally torturing myself into a bloody stump of a human being (my words, not hers).

Anyway, she proffered the radical idea at the end of the session that I assume for the time being that this is all going to work out. I'm not there yet. But I'm going to try to get there.

I had planned to wait until I got home to listen to the clinic's voice mail with Lawyer Guy, but in my new-found, post-therapy calm, I decided to just do it myself right there. Again, I limited expectations. I told myself that as long as the number didn't go down, I'd be okay with it. And then again it exceeded my wildest dreams! I never thought we'd get to 500, let alone almost 200 points above that!

I'm happy right now. That rush of relief after a good result is so wonderful and addictive. I'm not ready to read any more into this result than being happy that things are okay right now. But that's a lot better than I felt six hours ago.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some of All Fears; or, Waiting's Never Easy

This weekend has been a combination of great and really rough, and I'm sorry to say that right now the rough is winning. I realize this may sound like hideous whining to someone who would give anything to ever even see a positive pregnancy, and I'm sorry for that. Pregnancy after loss is a tricky beast, but I do know that I am lucky to be having these fears. I do know that.

I've tried to capture moments of zen, and here and there I have. The hours after the nurse called with our beta numbers were wonderful. Lawyer Guy and I had told ourselves over and over that we would be content with 30 or 40, so to hear 225 was way beyond our wildest dreams. I almost started crying in the middle of crossing 47th Street! Things seemed so good and so hopeful.

But now I wake up each morning around 5 or 6 am with a knot in my stomach and a quickly beating heart. I'm obsessively analyzing every sensation of my body. Is this occasional cramping a good thing or a bad thing? Have my hunger pangs subsided? Is it just my imagination, or do my boobs hurt a little less than they did yesterday, and yesterday did they hurt a little less than the day before? Is that terrible? Does that mean my betas are plummeting?

I keep imagining getting that call tomorrow afternoon and hearing the nurse say, "I'm sorry..." As soon as I imagine it once, I can't keep from imagining it continually: "I'm sorry," "I'm sorry," "I'm sorry."

I have to keep it together. I have a meeting to run tomorrow night. I have my first class to teach Tuesday. I have a massive qualifying exam in May to study for. I can't let myself lose my mind, and whatever I happens with this pregnancy, I need to stay grounded and focused.

But I've got doubts and fears lodged deep in my soul. I don't believe I'm going to get a baby out of this. I don't know how to believe that. I would love to be proven wrong! (Please, please, please).

Lawyer Guy and I have tried to seize on the good in this situation, whatever it's ultimate outcome is. We're delighted that two of our three IUIs lead to a conception--that's a way better track record than we've had on our own. Yesterday, I took out the bag of Gonal-f in my fridge and held it, reminding myself that however this turns out, I've got options and hopes and places to go from here. LG and I have taken to pretending I'm not pregnant at all. We say things like, "When you/I eventually get pregnant..." We smile a little as we say it, but something about the words does feel natural and right.

I'm going to church in a few hours. If there are no atheists in foxholes, I guess there are few church delinquents with questionable pregnancies. Nothing like fear of a(nother) miscarriage to get my ass in a pew.

If you've read this far, thanks for bearing with me. I pray so much that I have good news to report here tomorrow, but I know either way I return here to find the incredible support all of you have given, and that will help me get through.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Here We Go Again... [UPDATED]

Those were the words I woke my husband with at 4 am after waking to pee and seeing this (forgive the terrible cell phone pictures):

Yes, I took two tests. The first (up top) is my last remaining test from the March '09 stash; the second is a FRER that a message board friend sent several months ago. As the first test is only days away from expiring in February, I thought I needed some back-up.

I broke every single one of my rules. I didn't wait until my period was late to test (I'm 15 dpiui and last time I started spotting mid-afternoon on day 15); I sat on the bathroom floor and watched the tests change rather than set the timer and leave the room (it was 4 am, what was I going to do?); I woke Lawyer Guy up and told him right then and there rather than planning some elaborate surprise as I did with the first pregnancy.

I'm calling Dr. W's office in a half-hour or so when they open, and then I'm going in for betas. If I had to describe the way I feel right now, it would be "cautious." Not cautiously optimistic or cautiously hopeful. Just cautious. This is like walking across black ice: You measure each step carefully, feeling your way across the slippery surface, because letting yourself think two or three steps further will send you flat on your butt.

I really, really don't want to fall on my butt again. So when LG asked me this morning if we could get a little excited and start daydreaming, I told him I'm not ready. I know how hard it will be, but I'm going to try to focus on the same things that got me through what's already come of this cycle: writing, reading, studying, teaching, friends. Then, if this doesn't work out, I'll at least have something under me to fall onto.

[UPDATE]: First betas are in. 225 at 15 dpiui. I go back Monday.

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Now You See Her...; or, A Little Beethoven While We Wait

I'm going to have to disappear for a while. I start teaching again next Tuesday and in the next eight days, I need to plan a syllabus for a course I've never taught before, finish my last remaining incomplete paper, read for my orals, and maybe even work on the novel a bit (though that's going on the backburner until February), in addition to living my life.

I'll be back, I'm sure, to let everyone know after I get my period. In the meantime, some lovely music!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Do You Know; or, Instincts and Intuitions

We all know couples who describe their first meeting as a moment of absolute confidence and assurance. Maybe you're even part of one of those couples. My sister-in-law insists that by the end of her first date she knew she was going to marry my brother-in-law (though I wonder how she knew he was going to marry her). She's only one of many friends and family members with similar stories: I met him/her and I just knew.

I didn't have that. I met Lawyer Guy when I was twenty years old and a sophomore in college. He was twenty-six and an actual lawyer with an actual job who had actually graduated from an actual graduate school. I liked him right away (I mean, I went home with him that first night, so I hope I liked him!), but my brain told me there was no real future for the two of us. We were at different points in our lives. It just wasn't going to work out.

Except: I couldn't picture us breaking up. I knew we would, of course, but I couldn't imagine it happening, and as the weeks went on and we spent more time together, that imaginary break-up became less and less conceivable. A few months later, we both confessed that we loved each other and by the end of our first year dating, we were convinced we'd wind up married. But it wasn't like that at the beginning.

So what does this have to do with IF and fertility treatments?

I think of the conception stories of the parents and pregnant people I know as similar to "How we met" stories. Every reader of the New York Times Sunday Styles section knows that couple stories fall into a few recognizable categories (starting as friends; instant attraction; missed opportunities before the final clinch). From what I've seen over the last two years, conception stories do too. There's the "Nailed it on the first try" story (totally our favorites to hear people squealing over, amirite?). There's the "Miracle BFP after IF" story. There's the "We were on a break" story. There's the "Right before we started IVF" story. And on, and on, and on.

None of these stories feels right to me. I don't believe I'm going to get a Miracle BFP. I don't believe I'm going to get a While We Were On A Break baby. I don't think I'll tell the Right Before IVF tale.

It's the same feeling I had when I first met LG: a gap in imagination when I attempt to envision something I feel certain must happen. A break-up. A baby. Both equally inconceivable.

Maybe this means nothing. Maybe this is my subconscious awareness that I will never have a biological child. Maybe this means that the story of our path to baby hasn't occurred to me yet--that there are options and avenues I haven't considered.

I'm pretty sure it means I'm not pregnant right now. I'm pretty sure I'll be calling Dr. W's office in a week or so to set up the What Next? appointment. Maybe that's why I can't picture this. I don't know the next steps of the dance yet.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Waiting; or, X dpIUI

This will be a quick post. Not much to report here. The waiting continues, but fortunately, the writing continues, too. The studying doesn't continue quite as swimmingly, but I aim to change that today.

Lawyer Guy and I kept busy this weekend. On Friday, I had dinner and drinks at Eataly (Mario Batali's awesome new food hall near the Flatiron Building) with a friend. A few too many drinks, if I'm being honest, but we all have our little lapses. On Saturday LG and I saw The King's Speech, which we loved. On Sunday we met the BIL and SIL and their kids for brunch in New Jersey and then came home and cooked dinner together and watched the Golden Globes.

And throughout, I've been peeing on sticks, which is definitely not how I usually spend the two-week-wait. But the four (now two) hpts remaining from the stash I ordered back in March '09 are set to expire next month. I hate wastefulness. I also hate seeing BFNs. Testing the trigger out seemed like the perfect solution to this problem. I've been taking a test every two days and the line is fading steadily. I've got two tests left and I imagine it will have disappeared by the time I take the last one. Conversely, LG might take the last test for us to use as a control in the future.

Perhaps some of my more experienced pee-sticking friends can offer some advice. In the past, I have always PIAC before testing, as that seemed to allow for the highest level of control and accuracy. But now that the results really don't matter, I've just been holding the stick directly in the urine stream for a count of three. And it is getting SOAKED. The entire testing window is suffused with liquid, though when it dries the test looks normal. Am I doing this wrong? Holding it too long? At the wrong angle? I'll go back to P-ing IAC if I ever take another test with a legitimate shot at being a BFP, but I'd still like to know what I'm doing wrong here.

I'm not tracking how many days post-IUI we are. I haven't tried to calculate an EDD. Sometimes I feel certain that I'm pregnant (that I just have to be pregnant), and most of the time I'm certain that I'm not. I feel content when I consider either possibility until the thought of moving on to injects or IVF intrudes. I'm not sure that I'm ready for next steps yet. I've just gotten used to this one. But I'm also sure that whatever happens this month, I'm equipped to deal with it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tea and Sympathy; or, the Next Two Weeks

Lawyer Guy and I had breakfast this morning at Le Pain Quotidien, in what is becoming a while-they-mix-the-magic-sauce-up tradition. He's always very relieved when his contribution is over, so it's a nice time to check in with each other and decompress a little. We talked today about what might come next and about how we've both been coping with it all. Then as we were finishing, he said, "This is going to work. This is going to be the one that works."

As he said the words, I realized how much I wanted to hear them. This is strange because I never say those words, not even to myself, not even in the quiet spaces of my head or while I'm walking alone through the snowy city streets. I try even to avoid "If this works" constructions and focus instead on everything we will try next month or the month after when this avenue fails for us, too.

But perhaps I'm not afraid of hope so much as I'm afraid of being hopeful. And if someone else is willing to carry that burden of hopefulness for me, I'm willing to partake of some vicarious optimism.

The procedure went well. The nurse was super fast, which made it all much more bearable. LG's sample was again quite good: 77 million and 87% motility post-wash. I didn't have another ultrasound after my disappointing one on Tuesday so I don't know how things were going ute-wise at insemination time, but I've been chugging red raspberry leaf tea by the barrel-full the last few days. I'm hoping that the lining has plumped up closer to 10mm. I'm hoping that the 13mmer follie took some steroids and swelled up like Barry Bonds before it popped. I hope I have two potentials this month, but I'm trying to be okay with only one.

I'm drinking a two-bag cup of tea right now, since it's the last day I'll let myself drink any before giving it up in the two-week wait. My yogi brand tea bags inform me that "Whatever character you give your children shall be their future" and "Happiness comes when you overcome the most impossible challenge." My impossible challenge for the next two weeks is to center my mind on writing and studying and all the dreams that are at least partially in my control. I'm sure that happiness will come when we overcome the most impossible of our challenges and that perfect happiness (or the closest thing to it) isn't achievable until that challenge is met. Still, I'm going to give this not-perfect happiness thing a try in the meantime.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Dispatches from the Clomid Train; or, My Underachieving Ovaries and Me

After getting my follie-centered hopes up at Sunday's appointment, today's was a rough fall back to earth. I've got two follies on my left ovary (a 17mmer and a 13mmer) but I suspect that only the larger one is in play. There's nothing but a giant cyst on my right ovary which the doctor said has apparently been there a long time-- in fact, I think the same doctor noticed this cyst back during monitoring in November. And my lining blows. It's at an impressively awful 5.9.

I have to go back tomorrow morning for my trigger shot in the middle of a blizzard. No way I can drive, so I'll have to hope the subways are running. IUI will follow on Thursday.

I admit, I'm bummed. I thought 150 mg of Clomid would get us a number of follies to write home about. I'm not sure why, but my ovaries appear to absolutely hate this drug. At least I'll never have to take it again after this cycle. I'm sick of the headaches and the emotional turmoil and the thin-ass lining. Gonal-f has to be better, it just has to.

I've been telling myself I'm detached from this cycle. I've been convincing myself that I'm focused on my orals studying and my novel writing and that babies can take a mental backseat for the next six or so months. I'm disappointed enough today to suspect that none of that is true. But I am going to try very hard the next few weeks to focus on other, more fulfilling parts of my life than this one. And I'm going to try to forget about the tough conversations we'll be having with Dr. W next week if IUI #3 doesn't work.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Full Psycho; or, Weekends With Crazy

People, this past weekend was seriously intense.

For starters, I think I finally learned firsthand about the Clomid Crazies. All week, I'd been feeling so cheerful and optimistic and pumped about getting back into writing and taking pleasure in crafting stories again. And suddenly, out of nowhere, I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Friday morning, I finished a book I really, really liked by a relatively new author and was filled with this strange mixture of self-loathing shame and reckless ambition. I careened between hating myself for even thinking I should write when I would never compare to this author and spurring myself on to write more and more frequently because her book was such an inspiration.

I even e-mailed the author to let her know how in awe I am of her talent and (as her bio mentioned she is also a doctoral student as well as a writer) to ask her for some time-management tips. (And she wrote back the loveliest, kindest, and most helpful e-mail the next day, so now I adore/hate her even more!)

And from there, my mental state just fell off a cliff. For the rest of the day, I was either sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing about my lack of talent, my idiotic self-sabotage of my writing career, and my total worthlessness as a human being or I was running around the apartment, pulling out old manuscripts and books on writing and frantically e-mailing everyone I ever knew who could help me with my career (i.e., "Hi editor at prominent publishing house who offered to take a look at my book two years ago when we chatted at an industry event. Remember me? No? Wanna read my book anyway? I'm finally ready to stop being a chicken-shit and send it to you!")

My emotions were utterly out of my control. Lawyer Guy and I had plans for dinner and a movie that night, but as I spent most of dinner fighting tears, he begged that we just go home afterward. I could not understand why I was feeling and acting this way when only a few days before I'd been suffused with a calm and steady sort of ambition and a willingness to take each step as it came.

Then I remembered: Clomid. I was bumped up to 150 mg this cycle. I had no anxiety on it before, but this utterly manic and uncontrolled behavior is so not like me, I have to believe it stems from the drug (the anxiety is all too familiar, unfortunately). Once I realized that, my panic subsided a bit. I no longer felt like I was a victim of my emotions, and things have been better since.

I'm still writing and still feeling hopeful about my writing (when I'm not feeling worthless, as I mentioned before, but I think that's the inevitable pendulum for any sort of artistic endeavor). My long-term critique partner and I had a phone chat on Saturday and agreed that we're both fully rededicated to the quest for publication. I've worked out a writing/academic research schedule that will take me to the end of the summer, at which point I'm hopeful I'll have both a dissertation prospectus ready for approval and some quality manuscripts I feel excited about shopping around. I wonder if I have any talent and if my work will ever live up to the books that exist in my head. But writing is the hardest and most miserable thing I have ever loved to do, so I don't have much of a choice. I can either half-heartedly write, not succeed, and always wonder what I could have done or go all out and fail spectacularly and, if I'm lucky, improve a little with each year and each book.

The rest of the weekend was calmer, if still emotionally strained. I wrote and finally finished my grading from last semester. LG and I had dinner at our friends' place where I drank just a little too much for the sake of my head at Sunday morning's 7 am monitoring appointment in Manhattan. I had a hot date with Wandy, who revealed some promising developments but nothing definitive yet, and then yesterday afternoon I went to a NYC-area blogger meet-up at the home of the hilarious Jay of The Two Week Wait. I got to meet Jay and The Infertility Doula and Lady Pumpkin along with another area blogger (who's an actual real-life friend of mine, so she and I don't read each other's blogs). All of the women were funny and lovely and we had a great brunch and a chat about all this crazy place we find ourselves in. I hope we can meet again!

So now I'm back to the familiar patience of cycling. The IUI will likely be this week, with more waiting to follow. But despite my emotional eruption on Friday, I've been feeling more calm about IUI#3 than any of the previous. It helps that I've got such thrilling and engrossing things to think about these days: I spent all my waiting time at the clinic yesterday working through a thorny plotting problem in one of the books I'm mentally figuring out right now. I hope I can spend the two-week wait similarly occupied, and that if this cycle ends in a failure like the others, I can cheer myself up with the thought of an extra month of writing time nine months in the future.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unblocked; or, Things I Didn't Accomplish Before I Turned 30

I kind of don't recognize myself these days. Or I do, but the self I recognize is one that's been gone so long, I didn't think I'd ever see her again. It's the reader self. The writer self. The dreamer self.

Back in the dark ages, before grad school, before marriage (though not before Lawyer Guy), before babies and all their many disappointments, what I wanted with an all-consuming fire was to publish a novel. On my 25th birthday, I sat down and wrote a list of the Things I WILL (underlined three times) Accomplish Before I Turn 30! and Number One on the list was: Get Published.

Lest you think I've turned into a complete stranger, Number Two was: Have Baby. So, awesome, thank you The Secret; empirical evidence that you're full of shit.

I think Number Three: Get into Doctoral Program is the only one of the goals I actually did manage to achieve before the deadline. But the longer our baby chase took and the sadder I got, the less I cared about my lack of publication. I stopped writing for pleasure, except on this blog. I stopped caring that I'd given up on a dream I'd shivered over since I was seven years old and read The Secret Garden for the first time.

So what the hell has gotten into me the last few months? I've been writing again! After a nearly three-year break! And this winter vacation, I've been reading like I haven't since I was in junior high. I've been reading like a crack fiend: staying up until 3 am to finish one book and then starting the next one when I wake up at 8. Reading a book and a half per day. And all this reading is filling me with ideas for novels to write and with that gnawing, gripping ache in my heart that means: I want this so much I will truly die, just burst apart with a pleasurable kind of pain, if I don't make this happen.

And yesterday, for the first time in ever, I thought to myself that maybe it would be okay if I couldn't have a baby soon. Maybe I still have other dreams I can pursue. Maybe I'm still young enough not to throw in the towel on everything.

I had a lot of chances in the past--meetings with editors and authors--that I squandered out of lack of confidence, self-sabotage, and just plain not being ready yet, so I don't think this will be an easy road. But I want to fight for it. I have the will to win at something again and the need that's maybe strong enough to overcome the fear.

And it's nice to not think about the empty ute for a little while.

(ps-- The cleanse has been modified. It was turning into a starvation diet. I've reinstated dairy and moderate amounts of wheat).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hope and Hunger; or, How I Spent My Winter Vacation

So here we all are. Back together again. New year, same us. Four days in and I'm all ready to sum up 2011 with one word: Hungry.

That's probably because I began an intense 28-day detox/cleanse yesterday, the day we traveled home from the Bahamas, and I have had no wheat, soy, eggs, corn, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, packaged foods, or added sugar in the last 24 hours. I started taking 150 mgs of Clomid a night the day before the cleanse began. So I'm malnourished, hormonal, and travel-fatigued: yup, about ready to rip off my own arm and eat it raw with just a little salt. After I finish typing this post, I'm off to the grocery store to stock up on all the things I'm allowed to eat during these weeks of torture disguised as self-improvement.

But I'm hungry for a lot of things right now, not all of them carbs. I'm hungry for success and accomplishment and satisfaction. I want to feel good about myself again, inside and outside (but today, strangely, mostly inside). I want to feel again like I'm the girl who goes after her dreams and wins. I want to look at my reflection with pride instead of disappointment.

But where was I? Of course, How I Spent My Winter Vacation. In all the lovely ways one would expect: with lots of reading and sitting by the pool or beach and drinking rum cocktails and dressing up for dinner and getting a massage and even hitting the gym multiple times. True to lovely form, my period showed up on New Year's Eve, which part of me wanted to take as an awesome sign that this was the LAST period of 2010 and there won't be any in 2011 and part of me wanted to take as a dreadful sign that the next year will just be one failed cycle after another.

But it wasn't a sign of anything except the fact that I'd ovulated 14 days before and wasn't pregnant, so I stopped thinking about it as soon as I could.

That night, we ate at a great sushi restaurant and then Lawyer Guy played blackjack while I drank and cheered him on (I don't mind watching other people gamble--even with our joint money--but I don't like doing it myself) and then we got more drinks and watched the fireworks over the harbor at midnight.

And I remembered that last year, I felt such relief when the calendar switched over and in the days later, even an incredible joy. Losing our m&m at the end of 2009 was such a deep stain on the year that I couldn't wait to change the clocks and switch the date to something that was bound to be better and happier. I had a whole year to get pregnant again, and I was certain it would happen.

And now I've got no certainty and not always much optimism, and I felt such failure as the yachts all around us started blowing their horns and people were cheering. One whole year later with nothing to show for it and me no closer to my dreams.*

*And of course there's much to show, and of course I'm closer every day, but that didn't matter at the time.

We kissed, and I started to cry a little, and I know LG was worried and a little frustrated that we'd been having a good time and all those inconvenient feelings had to rise to the surface, so I pushed them back down and looked back over the water and thought to myself:

"Okay, 2011. Do your worst."

Which was perhaps the sort of blithe dare I should have learned by now not to make, considering all the evidence I have of fate's awful sense of humor (and all the fairy tales I read as a kid). Maybe, at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the new year I doomed myself to twelve months of disaster. But I still feel invigorated when I think the words to myself. I feel strong and competent and resourceful and all the things I want to be because it's abundantly clear that 2009 couldn't break me and 2010 couldn't break me and 2011 won't either, whatever the tricks it has hidden in it's New Year's top hat.